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From Albuquerque to Andalucia August 31, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in New Mexico, Spain.
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Though you wouldn’t know it from my recent posts, I’ve been working the past week from the beautiful home of my beautiful sister Tami Brunk, located near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque’s surprisingly green and vibrant South Valley. Tami has been sharing with me some of the lesser-known attractions of Albuquerque’s south side, such as the lush cottonwood forest along the river called Paseo del Bosque.  We paid a visit to the Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreño for some delicious pupusas – there’s a whole savory range from green chile to grilled fish to Mayan flower pupusas – and arrived in time to catch a performance from a local jarocho group (no, jarocho is not Salvadoran, it’s Veracruzan, but it’s a wonderful complement to the pupusas!)

A Veracruz-style jarocho band livens up Albuquerque's only Salvadoran pupuseria.

A Veracruz-style jarocho band livens up Albuquerque's only Salvadoran pupuseria.

The best part of my stay, besides spending time with Tami, has been learning more about the organization she’s been working with as its organizational and developmental director. La Plazita Institute, under the guidance of visionary leader Albino Garcia, has literally helped make the South Valley bloom, on many levels. The organization has a whole network of projects ranging from an urban organic farm to community outreach programs for gang-involved youth.

This week, I’ll be heading west to Acoma Pueblo, where I’ll be seeing the Sky City Cultural Center and a whole host of cultural and natural attractions. But first, I want to share with you a piece that just came out in The Buzz Magazines of Houston, a group of lifestyle magazines that has hired me as their travel editor. It’s a monthly column featuring the travels of readers in The Buzz circulation areas, but for my introductory column, I wrote about my own travels to two of my favorite places: Albuquerque and Andalucia.

Here’s the piece, From Albuquerque to Andalucia.

Al Andar in Andalucia June 5, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in Spain.
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GRANADA, Andalucia, Spain – If I lived in the south of Spain, I would be a painter, or a poet, or both.

The beauty here is as warm and as casual as a kiss on the cheek; the simple tiled-roof house in a field of olive trees, the arched portico of a patio filled with the scent of jasmine, the snow-capped backdrop of the Alpujarras. No surprise that this is the land that produced a Picasso and a Garcia Lorca.


It’s all flying by like a blur from the window of the high-speed AVE trains; the rolling hills planted with feathery asparagus, golden wheat, bright sunflowers and, of course, rows upon rows of olive trees. My time here is so brief, my job is to savor every moment and not to forget a detail.

Right now, in this tiny tile-roofed train station, I am savoring fresh-squeezed zumo de naranja, orange juice, with cappucino and a croissant. Last night I shared a savory paella with a family from Scottsdale, Arizona, whom I met at the train station. Yesterday afternoon I caught a bus that wound through the woods and up the foothills to the Alhambra, which took my breath away with its maze of arches and columns, its intricate carvings and its lush gardens and fountains. The day before, I was in the walled city of Cordoba, the ancient capital of Andalucia, wandering in awe through the vast colonnaded halls of the Mezquita and dining on red wine and tapas. And later today, I will finally meet my long-lost cousin in Sevilla.

This is the Arabic heart of Europe, the place where Muslim, Jew and Christian lived side by side in peace for centuries, producing a Golden Age of science, medicine, art and poetry. Cordoba was by far the largest and most technologically and culturally advanced city on the continent during its peak. 

Water is a recurring theme in this arid land; the Moors utilized an extensive and sophisticated irrigation network to bring agriculture to these lands, and they placed fountains and gardens everywhere. Every time I see a fountain, I am reminded of my friend Ibtisam Barakat’s A Poem Made of Water, which is so beautiful it made me cry.

Looking through Ibtisam’s eyes, I see Arabia everywhere. The Arab scholars and artisans and architects who planned these cities were all driven out along with the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, but their spirit and their heritage live on: in the language, the architecture, the music and even the blood of the people, whose faces reflect their Moorish ancestry.

This blog entry is dedicated to Ibtisam Barakat, con mucho cariño. Photos by Tracy L. Barnett.